Thursday, December 07, 2017

The Twilight Zone (1959) -- Season 1 Episode 7 (The Lonely)

Isolation is not an easy thing.  James A. Corry was convicted of murder and sent to live alone on an asteroid.  (At least, it’s called an asteroid.  Gravity seems normal enough.)  Sure, he claims it was self defense, but that doesn’t make him any less alone.  His only contact with other humans is Captain Allenby and his crew.  Allenby is a nice enough guy.  He was able to bring James a car, even if it was in several parts.  It’s not said where James gets gas or exactly where it is he has to go.  However, James is appreciative nonetheless.

The installment of The Twilight Zone begins with Allenby bringing James a special gift.  James is instructed not to open the box until the crew is out of sight, which James does.  What’s in the box?  It’s a woman.  Well, actually, it’s an android made to look like a woman.  James is desperate for any sort of companionship.  He begs Allenby for a game of chess, but orbital mechanics prevents Allenby from staying too long.  He has other stops to make and waiting too long will screw up his schedule.

James is a little resistant to his new companion, but he eventually warms up to her.  She even has a name: Alicia.  She’s programmed to be friendly, which is exactly what James needs.  He even forgets that she’s a robot.  When James eventually gets his pardon, he’s allowed only 15 pounds of personal possessions.  He insists on bringing Alicia, but it’s not meant to be.  Allenby has several other prisoners to pick up and there’s not that much space to go around.  It pains James to leave Alicia, but James is made to remember that she’s artificial.  He leaves with what few belongings he needs.

This isn’t one of the better episodes of The Twilight Zone.  It’s not one of the worst, but I don’t think it will be making my top-ten list.  The episode would seem to be a study in loneliness, but has a few flaws, at least one of which will become obvious as you watch the episode.  The first is how cruel it is to put prisoners on asteroids like that.  The episode doesn’t give many details about James’s crime.  I’d like to know who he murdered that the prison system saw fit to give him his very own asteroid.  The cost of sending him there and supplying him every three months or so can’t be cheap.

Then, there’s the inhumanity of a 50-year prison sentence.  It would be bad enough having a roommate.  Could you imagine being on an asteroid for 50 years?  You’d think he’d at least be allowed visitors.  Speaking of which, there’s no mention of guards.  Couldn’t a friend of Frank’s follow the supply ship and figure out which asteroid Frank is on?  That would have to be the easiest jailbreak ever.  You could probably make a business of putting a tracking device on the ships and offering to spring all the prisoners for a price.

This is another episode that might have benefited from the hour-long format.  A good portion of the episode is spent giving James the android and another good chunk is spent taking the android away from him.  This doesn’t leave much time for bonding.  It seemed kind of rushed.  I don’t know what else could have been added other than maybe some details on how James ended up on the asteroid.

As I said, it’s not a horrible episode.  (I don’t recall The Twilight Zone ever having an outright miss.)  This one usually makes the marathons.  Even given its flaws, it’s still an enjoyable episode.  The episode is generally safe for children.  There’s no sex.  The only possibly objectionable part is the android being shot with a gun and the wiring exposed.  If you’re watching on Netflix or catch it in a marathon, it’s worth watching.  I wouldn’t go out of your way to find it, though.

1 comment :

Raymond Louis Llompart said...

Thank you!
I just saw it last night and came to a different conclusion------giving it two STARS on a grading of ONE to FOUR (following the NY Times restaurant review system for almost thirty years-----TWO being "very good").
The "problem "is that you forgot that there is something called "suspension of disbelief". The whole issue of the car, the friend who might come over to save him, the time and expense that it takes for the authorities to maintain this silly "prison" is outside the boundaries of the internal logic of the episode.
What touches one greatly is the intense loneliness of the man, and how well the actor conveys that loneliness.
And...the heartbreaking issue of having found a robot that he can love and loves him (an entire extrapolation would be that we are ALL robots on this earth to a great extent---a creation of forces beyond our control) and when he finds out the end of their relationship he despairs greatly.
But YES, the mistake of the episode was having him be so acquiescent and accept his future without her so meekly. It should have ended with him refusing to go, or perhaps being killed along with her because he gets violent protecting her.
I think I am correct when I think that the reason this was not done was because the episode would have ended on a note of great despair---and that was a no-no for the period (or was it not)...
I have been watching them in order for a few days and this my is 7th but apart from this one and the first one everything is mediocre, if entertaining...
I don't think I will find much art here, but I have seen many throughout the years, so I am giving myself this "treat" (especially at this very poignant moment in history----I mean, we are going through a "Twilight Zone" episode!!)
Stay safe and Thank You!!